Alex Cooper, a 21-year-old woman, has written a book, "Saving Alex," which recalls the alleged strange and brutal attempts of ex-gay conversion therapists to "cure" her homosexuality when she was a teen.
Cooper wrote that she told her Mormon parents she was gay when she was 15 years old, and they responded by sending her to live with Tiana and Johnny Siale in St. George, Utah, notes Publishers Weekly.
Cooper's book says the Siales practiced “reparative therapy” that was supposed to “cure” her lesbianism.
One of the stranger cures that Cooper writes about is having to stand with a backpack full of rocks: "I did not know how many hours I had been standing there, quietly trying to manage the pain by shifting my weight from foot to foot."
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While Cooper stood with the rocks, she recalled being told by the couple: "Your family doesn't want you. God has no place for people like you in His plan."
In her book, Cooper said that she tried to kill herself once, and attempted to escape the Siales' home numerous times, which allegedly resulted in harsh punishment.
Cooper wrote: "I came to my feet in front of him. He made a fist and punched me in the gut, knocking the wind out of me. I doubled over and choked for breath."
According to Cooper's book, the Siales were not trained or credentialed therapists, and visitors to the couple's home witnessed what was happening to the teen, but did not notify anyone in the heavily Mormon town.
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Cooper recalled that the Siales eventually permitted her to attend a local school where she got in touch, via another gay student, with a lawyer in Salt Lake City, Paul C. Burke.
"When she first called me, I was floored," Burke told KUTV.
Burke represented Cooper in juvenile courts over the next year.
"The court order allowed Alex to live her life authentically," Burke added. "It allowed her to rebuild her relationship with her parents."
"They thought they were doing the best thing for me," Cooper told KUTV. "I think that's what a lot of parents are under the impression of, that they're doing the best thing for their child."
Now, Cooper and Burke are fighting to ban gay conversion therapy, which is not recognized as legitimate therapy by any major medical organization, notes Human Rights Campaign. It is illegal in some states, but not all.
"The Church denounces any therapy that subjects an individual to abusive practices," Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spokesman Eric Hawkins told KUTV in a statement.
"We hope those who experience the complex realities of same-sex attraction find compassion and understanding from family members, professional counselors and church members."
Cooper chose not to pursue criminal prosecution of the Siales.
“As long as I was sitting in a courtroom looking at them I couldn’t move on with my life, and that’s what I needed to do,” Cooper told Publishers Weekly.
The Siales have not issued a comment.